APTN National News
Chiefs in Alberta say they will push for a better deal with the province of Alberta despite the announcement by Premier Rachel Notley that a royalty review will bring about few changes in oil and gas revenue structure going forward.
Notley made the announcement on a freeze on royalty sharing Friday in Calgary.
Recommendations from the royalty review panel listed on the government’s website include a paragraph stating the province “could” look into discussing revenue sharing with First Nations and Metis.
The issue has been a topic long in contention with First Nations since the signing of the Natural Resource Transfer Act (NRTA) in 1931.
Charlene Houle-White, a council member from Saddlelake Cree Nation in Northern Alberta, attended one of many meetings held last year by the review panel designed to engage Albertans in the process.
She expressed her dismay at the marginalization of First Nations in the oil rich province.
Houle-White said her grandfather signed the NRTA in the 1930’s as did other Alberta First Nations without being consulted and have since been left out of profits made on natural resources.
“I went about asking my elders what happened. And I wondered, ‘How come we’re not rich like the Saudi Arabians? Because this is our oil in this soil. We didn’t cede. Our Treaty’s say we didn’t cede the land that was the depth of the plow,” said Houle-White. “We are only asking for an equitable share, not to break the Government, only the opportunity to bring our peoples quality of life to a suitable standard. Our people have suffered from non-inclusion for a very long time- please share what we have shared with you. The chance to come out of racist policies which oppress and take from our most important resource, our people.”
When the NRTA act came into effect it transferred the jurisdictional rights over lands, waters, and natural resources in Alberta from the Federal Government to the province.
Many First Nations believe the NRTA breached their rights to hunting, fishing, trapping as well as rights to the water and natural resources.
Houle-White said deplorable living conditions in many First Nations in Alberta clash with the prosperity and infrastructure experienced by the rest of the province gained from money made off of natural resources.
“Our roads are bad, we don’t have the money to fix them. And yet we have oil and gas trucks that come onto our lands and we don’t get much back- we get a small piece, that’s all that we ever see for our resources. We have less, we’ve always had less and now we’re saying we don’t want to have less anymore,” she said.
Treaty 6 Grand Chief Tony Alexis also expressed disappointment by the lack of direct engagement with First Nations during the review period.
“It was also disappointing that one needs to get to page 75 of the report in one small paragraph to even acknowledge a mention of the important issue of revenue sharing for First Nations. I believe it is also noteworthy that the Premier did not see it fit to mention the issue in her remarks,” said Alexis.
He added that it is a complex issue happening at a time when the energy industry is experiencing a crisis, however he will hold the government accountable until progress is made in discussing revenue sharing options.
AFN regional Chief Craig Mackinaw is also skeptical of the wording used in the report.
“When they say “could”- it means different things. So I’m not too sure if they’re just saying it just to acknowledge us.
I’m not too sure where they’re coming from when they make those kinds of comments. It’s too vague. They need to talk to the chiefs about it. I know the chiefs have brought it at different times to their table. But there needs to be more discussion,” said Mackinaw.
With the NDP government preparing to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) next month while championing building new relationships with Indigenous groups, Mackinaw feels having talks about resource revenue sharing would be an integral step forward.
“I think it is an important part of that process. It will show that they’re following through with their commitment under UNDRIP. And if they (government) do that it will show the bands, chiefs and councils that they’re serious about addressing the relationship with us.”